The Perpetual Calendar

By Ishan Raghava - October 5, 2017
Last month, we brought you a feature on Annual Calendar watches. This month, we take it up a few notches and tell you why the next family heirloom ought to be a timepiece that’s been revered for dec....

Last month, we brought you a feature on Annual Calendar watches. This month, we take it up a few notches and tell you why the next family heirloom ought to be a timepiece that’s been revered for decades – the Perpetual Calendar.

Last month, we discussed at length about why an Annual Calendar is a great complication for a watch aficionado to own and wear on a regular basis. However, for those who are looking for something even more exotic, the next step would be to invest in a good Perpetual Calendar. To an extent, both complications offering the same function – which is to say that, in addition to keeping time, they also keep track of the day, date and month of the year. 

Annual Calendar’s, however, need to be adjusted once every year – provided they’re kept wound through the year – at the end of February, when you have to manually set the watch to the 1st of March. However, with Perpetual Calendars, the added complication means that it’s designed to accurately reflect the day, date, and month – in some cases, even the year – without requiring any adjustment till the year 2100! 

This means that the watch mechanism has another set of gears and linkages that quietly tick away – rather slowly mind you, as they move only once every four years to reflect the leap year accurately. And so the watch only needs to be adjusted once every century, which in this case wouldn’t be till the year 2100. As per to the Gregorian calendar, the leap year is skipped at the turn of the century. 

Since Perpetual Calendars are much sought after, and highly regarded for their craftsmanship and engineering – it takes highly skilled craftsmen weeks and even months to make one – they are naturally far more expensive than Annual Calendars. And, given the relative exclusivity of Perpetual Calendars, they’re normally of a more formal design. Plus, the cases tend to be finished in more expensive metals to enhance their exclusivity.
But the first Perpetual Calendar that you see in this feature differs from that norm to an extent. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is available in a black ceramic case (other, more conventional cases like pink gold and stainless steel are also available), and features a glare-proof sapphire crystal glass front and back. The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar features the day, date, month, astronomical moon, and week of the year – making it a real work of watchmaking art. The 41mm dial encases a new in-house self-winding calibre (5134), which is based on its predecessor – the calibre 2120. In its updated form, the new calibre has a power reserve of 40 hours. Needless to say, with its various complications, as well as the subtle, yet bold, ceramic finish, the Royal Oak is a very desirable watch for an enthusiast looking to make a tasteful statement. 

Our next pick is a virtual rarity in its segment – a relatively affordable mechanical Perpetual Calendar. This offering is from a brand that’s known for offering complications at affordable price points – Frederique Constant. And their Slimline Perpetual Calendar doesn’t disappoint, as it’s an elegant watch at a price (of around `4 lakh) that won’t need you to break the children’s college fund. The design of the watch is on the more classic side, with a relatively uncomplicated dial comprising of three sub-dials, as well as a moon phase display. The 42mm case encases a FC-775 manufacture calibre with a 38-hour power reserve. 

The last, and perhaps the most elegant, of the three timepieces is the incredible IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar. A part of the famous Portugieser collection, the watch is offered in multiple versions, with our pick being the red gold version with a slate-coloured dial and black alligator strap. Contained in the 44mm case is an in-house movement from IWC’s 52000 calibre family – the 52615 – which is self-winding movement that offers a power reserve of a healthy 168 hours. Interestingly, not only does this watch offer day, date, and month, but also year in four digits in the lower part of the dial. And, uniquely, it also offers a moon phase display with twin-moon displays offering the exact position of the moon in both the northern and the southern hemisphere for complete accuracy. Needless to say, with its large dial and stunning detailing, the Portugieser would look fantastic with a suit or even in a more informal setting. 

Above all, with their longevity and ability to stay relevant for decades – if not centuries – Perpetual Calendars make for fantastic family heirlooms to be passed on from one generation to the next. And given their cost – barring the more affordable Frederique Constant that is – it makes sense to buy one with the vision to pass it on to your successors. Just remember to tell them to adjust it once every century.  

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